Friday, September 30, 2005

US District Judge Smith-Camp tosses one Initiative 300 corporate farming suit

Federal Judge Smith Camp tosses DeCamp's suit challenging Nebraska Corporate farming ban (Initiative 300), second case against corporate farming amendment still alive. Decamp missed a deadline--No way-- and failed to demonstrate injury. Omaha World Herald Former State Sen. John DeCamp's lawsuit challenging Nebraska's ban on corporate farming has been given the boot by a judge. But another lawsuit challenging the ban is still pending.U.S. District Judge Laurie Smith Camp issued an order late Wednesday throwing out DeCamp's lawsuit. Smith Camp said DeCamp missed a filing deadline and failed to prove he has been harmed by the ban.DeCamp owns farmland in several Nebraska counties and hog businesses. He noted that his lawsuit spurred the filing of the second. "I started the fire. . . . I'm happy and in hog heaven," DeCamp said. The ban, widely known as Initiative 300, was added to the State Constitution through a petition drive spearheaded by the Farmers Union in 1982. I-300 generally prohibits corporations and certain other business entities from owning farmland or engaging in agricultural activity, although there are numerous exceptions. Decamp's suit alleged that I-300 interferes with interstate commerce and violates the U.S. Constitution's equal protection clause. The second lawsuit was filed by former State Sen. Jim Jones and others and claims that I-300 violates the Americans With Disabilities Act because it requires at least one family member who owns the farm to be engaged in day-to-day physical activities on the farm. The ban exempts family owned and operated farms, nonprofit corporations, American Indian tribal corporations, land used for seed or nursery purposes and land used for research or experimental purposes. Potential violators can come into compliance by divesting of their agricultural activity or changing their ownership structure from a corporation or limited liability company to a general partnership. Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of a decision declaring South Dakota's ban on corporate farming unconstitutional. That ruling, from the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, said the South Dakota amendment interferes with interstate commerce and is unconstitutional. The appeals court also said there was little evidence that a ban on corporate farming could help preserve the family farm or protect the environment.

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